In many ways, 2020 is more of the same for state Rep. Avery Bourne, R-Raymond.

In a state where many lawmakers run unopposed in districts drawn so heavily in favor of one party, Bourne is staring down her third consecutive contested race.

Bourne, who at 22 years old became the youngest person to serve in the General Assembly when she was appointed to the Illinois House in 2015, defeated her Democratic opponents with 57% of the vote in 2016 and 60% in 2018.

But Democrats hope that the third time will be the charm with candidate Chase Wilhelm, 36, an Army reservist from Coffeen, hoping his profile will convince voters to send him to Springfield.

The 95th district is mostly rural with small towns scattered throughout. It includes all or parts of Christian, Macoupin, Madison and Montgomery counties.

Though trending Republican along with many other rural, culturally-conservative downstate districts, Democrats, buoyed by organized labor, continue to be relatively competitive.

In stating her case for re-election, Bourne touted her record of fiscal conservatism, sponsorship of ethics reform legislation and ability to work across the aisle on important legislation, such as the school funding reform bill that was signed into law in 2018.

And in a statehouse dominated by Democrats, Bourne said she provides a necessary counterbalance.

"While bipartisanship is important, I’m not afraid to be a loud check on the Democratic majority when I believe they’re wrong on policy," Bourne said. "At the end of the day, I’m committed to working with lawmakers from any political party to cut spending, pass ethics reforms, and move our state in the right direction."

Wilhelm, on the other hand, said he hoped to be a voice for downstate within the House Democratic Caucus, which is heavily tilted toward Chicago and the suburbs.

"I’m proud to have the opportunity to speak for our downstate interests within the Democratic party, and downstate Democrats have a unique opportunity to lead the path forward for a better Illinois for all of us," Wilhelm said. "The path to a unified future and a better Illinois will be paved by leaders who are willing to stand up for all of us, not self-serving interests."

Bucking his party’s leadership, Wilhelm said that if elected, he would support state Rep. Stephanie Kifowit, D-Aurora, for Speaker of the Illinois House over embattled incumbent Michael Madigan, D-Chicago.

Kifowit, a fellow military veteran, announced earlier this month that she would challenge Madigan, the longtime house speaker who has been implicated but not charged in a bribery scheme allegedly orchestrated by utility giant Commonwealth Edison to influence and award his allies.

Bourne has taken it a step further and called for Madigan to resign.

Bourne and Wilhelm agreed that Madigan’s troubles are a sign that ethics reform should be at the top of the agenda in the next General Assembly. They both said it starts with enacting term limits on legislative leaders.

Bourne said she also supports redistricting reform that would take the process out of the hands of lawmakers, a ban on lawmakers simultaneously serving as lobbyists and giving the state’s legislative inspector general more independence.

Wilhelm said he would attempt to close the revolving door of lawmakers becoming lobbyists and pursue campaign finance reform.

As for money, Bourne reported $76,561 in her campaign fund through the end of June and has since raised $11,000. Most of the cash comes from the Illinois GOP and various business interests.

Wilhelm had just over $6,000 on hand in June and has since raised an additional $4,000. Most of his financial support has come from Democratic donors and labor unions.

To address the state’s crippling property taxes, each said they would look to continue boosting state funding of schools through the evidence-based funding formula.

Wilhelm said he wants the Illinois State Board of Education to study school district administrative costs to find wasteful spending. Bourne said she will seek to cut the number of unfunded mandates placed on districts by the legislature.

The candidates said an important component of reducing the property tax burden is building up the state’s corporate tax base.

Bourne noted that beyond the loss of 300 jobs with the closure of the coal-fired Coffeen Power Station in Montgomery County last year, it means the loss of significant tax revenue.

Bourne said the plant closure is the result of Democrats not addressing issues that made the coal-fired plant uncompetitive.

"Unlike my opponent, who has publicly advocated against the usage of affordable American energy sources like coal and natural gas, I instead support an all-of-the-above approach that includes affordable base load capacity balanced with policies that encourage renewable energy development," Bourne said.

If elected, Wilhelm said he hopes to "offer incentives for companies and corporations that provide manufacturing jobs to return to cities and towns with existing infrastructure that has since closed."

Wilhelm said the closure of power plants, coal mines and other significant job-providing companies in the district in part encouraged him to run. He said crossover training should be provided to former coal miners and factory workers so that they can work in clean energy fields.

He said incentives should be offered to encourage the conversion of closed coal-fired power plants into clean energy.

To encourage economic development, Bourne said the state needed to hold the line on taxes, reduce regulations on businesses and implement more incentives.

Wilhelm said he would encourage tax relief for small and rural business owners who employ people from their region.

Contact Brenden Moore: 788-1526,,

via Lincoln Courier

October 11, 2020 at 07:50AM